West Virginia University
11 Jun

For some, the term “augmented reality” (AR) may conjure images of Hollywood blockbusters like Iron Man 3 or Avatar, but what was once considered futuristic entertainment may soon be wearable technology for the masses – including journalists. Google will beta test its new device, Glass, in the coming months, and two projects at the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism have been selected to participate. google glass image

Assistant Professor Dana Coester, director of the School’s Mobile Main Street project, and Mary Kay McFarland, coordinator for the West Virginia Uncovered project, applied to receive a Glass device through Google’s #ifihadglass campaign on Twitter.

McFarland’s West Virginia Uncovered students will use Glass as a tool to enhance their narrative documentary style.

“West Virginia Uncovered was created to challenge students to push the envelope in terms of storytelling,” McFarland said. “I think it’s important that they get exposure to the newest technology.

In Coester’s class this spring, students teamed up and pitched concepts for the app as their final project. She says her students proposed the idea of writing an app for Glass that will empower journalists and citizens in rural communities to tell their own stories in a very realistic way.

“What they came up with was Storyville – an app that will allow users to capture community information streams for local storytelling and community building for historically marginalized communities,” said Coester.

Coester says Glass presents unimagined reporting opportunities for today’s journalists. The device is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display that – among other things – allows users to share exactly what they see with others. It looks like a pair of glasses without lenses.

Once tools like Glass become the norm, Coester sees big changes in the way journalists research and report their stories.

“There is no doubt that Glass, and other wearable technology, is a game changer in an industry that has become accustomed to perpetual change,” said Coester. “The storytelling potential in Glass is provocative and asks journalists to think about stories unfolding in digital and physical space, in motion and in real-time.

“Love it or hate it, Google Glass represents a shift in social behavior that will reverberate through journalism practice the same way social media has.”

To prepare students for a changing media industry, the School of Journalism is not only teaching students practical skills but also engaging them in developing new media products and applications.

“As a journalism school, we recognize there are significant implications for journalism in the numerous Glass-like wearable tech devices coming to market,” said Coester, “and we want to be experimenting in these forms sooner rather than later.”

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